Woman at Almshouse may have died with a secret

Posted 10/4/22

Two Hebrew residents were walking the dark streets of Pawtucket on Christmas night of 1895 selling holiday wares. Shortly after 11:00, they joined a large gathering of people in an alley off Bowen …

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Woman at Almshouse may have died with a secret


Two Hebrew residents were walking the dark streets of Pawtucket on Christmas night of 1895 selling holiday wares. Shortly after 11:00, they joined a large gathering of people in an alley off Bowen Street. Reaching into a coat pocket, one of them pulled out several small candles that hadn’t sold and handed them to a police officer so he could better see the crime scene.   

It had been anything but a holy, silent night. The area was known for its rowdy saloons, the streets lined with dilapidated houses resided in by people who lived on the wrong side of the law. Two adult daughters of Daniel and Elizabeth Moran were out together that evening and later reported they heard a man scream, “Murder!” two times. They said they ran to the alley where they saw the shadowy figures of two men standing in front of a house and heard one of the men ask, “Now will you keep your mouth shut?”

The question was directed to a dark figure slumped against the door of the house. The women said when they noticed he wasn’t moving, they screamed and the two shadows quickly turned, yanked their hats down over their faces and ran.

Moments later, two other men, who had also heard the cries of murder, appeared on the scene. Daniel Walker and Arthur Terdge asked the two sisters what had happened. They stated they didn’t know and asked the men to go look at the victim to see who it was. One of the men walked to the body and lit a match. In the glow, he could see the face covered with blood. He shook the victim and there was no response. The police were sent for.

Horse trainer and racing jockey James McNalley, who lived in Providence’s North End, had been kicked and beat to death. But no one seemed to know why or by whom. 

Later that summer, the Moran sisters were present when their former sister-in-law, Nellie Moran, was viciously beat and kicked by her long-time boyfriend Lewis Green, an express company driver. Nellie had been married to their brother, Jack Moran, until 1890 when he shot a police officer. She stood by him through the trial but filed for divorce when he was sentenced to serve ten years at the State Prison. He didn’t finish the sentence, dying of consumption in the fall of 1893 while incarcerated.

The 28-year-old daughter of Ellen (Flanigan) Mooty, Nellie fled to her mother’s home on Broadway Street after the assault. Ellen told her she could stay there only if she filed a police report against Lewis and had him arrested for beating her. Nellie agreed.

Authorities believed the event to be merely one of domestic assault until they spoke to 31-year-old witness Kate Moran. She told them that, as Nellie was being pummeled, she cried out to Green, “You’ll never kill me like you did McNalley!”

Police attempted to bring Nellie back for questioning but were unable to locate her. Her mother said she was probably with the Moran family. The Moran family said she was probably with her mother. Police finally found her at her mother’s home, still bearing the bruises and scars of the beating.

Nellie told them she had not been hiding and had been right there at Ellen’s house the entire time. She stated that she did not remember making any such statement about Green killing McNalley but, if she did, it was only to make him stop hitting her. She claimed that what she knew about Green was enough to get him put in jail but it was regarding things he had done to her and had nothing to do with McNalley.

Nellie swore that she knew for a fact that Green did not commit the murder. She said he had been with her all evening at their home on North Main Street that Christmas and that he retired to bed before 8:00. Her story did not match up with those of other witnesses who came forward. One stated that, minutes before the murder, they had seen Green, Nellie and two of the Moran sisters on Bowen Street. Kate Moran would only say that two of her sisters were in the area that night and that she was positive Green killed the jockey.

Other witnesses claimed that Green and Nellie had been at Hamilton Place on Christmas night and that both had gotten very drunk. Nellie denied the accusation and, when police located Green, he denied it as well. He pleaded guilty to beating Nellie and was sentenced to serve 60 days in prison. While in a holding cell for two days before being transported to Cranston, Nellie brought him supper each night.

Nellie moved in with her mother and found a job at a local mill. The life of the 47-year-old woman ended at the Almshouse in Cranston on Aug. 8, 1915. She was battling an addiction to morphine and might have taken a secret to the grave.

Kelly Sullivan is a Rhode Island columnist, lecturer and author.


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